SAN JOSE – Tyler Kennedy hasn’t had the impact that the Sharks were hoping for when they traded a second round pick to the Penguins in exchange for the 27-year-old forward last June.
Perhaps regular playing time and an expanded role headed into the playoffs will change that. By the look of Tuesday’s morning skate, Kennedy will be on the third line left wing with center James Sheppard and right wing Tommy Wingels when the Sharks face Anaheim in their biggest game of the season. He skated on the third line against the Kings last Thursday, too, with Sheppard and Matt Nieto.
Wednesday at Honda Center will be Kennedy’s seventh straight game, after he was a healthy scratch for back-to-back matches on March 20 and 22. Lately, he’s skated primarily on the fourth line since Adam Burish was hurt, bringing a bit more jump to that trio.
How does Kennedy, who has four goals and 13 assists in 64 games, think things have been going lately?
“They’re going alright,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve got to try to really get better these last three games and really get sharper, and try to be at the top of my game going into the playoffs. I think I’m doing OK.”
Kennedy showed some excitement to get a chance to play again with Sheppard, whose emergence since the end of the Olympic break has been dramatic, although the last three games his third line with various wingers has hit a snag.
“He’s really been playing well,” Kennedy said of Sheppard. “Give him the puck, and kind of go to the net, because he’s going to take it there. It’s great. It’s a great opportunity for me.”
Todd McLellan indicated that Kennedy’s skating ability and work ethic have been as good as expected, and the forward’s 23 penalties drawn (behind only Joe Pavelski and Andrew Desjardins) are reflective of that. But, the forward hasn’t been able to nail down some of the details of the Sharks’ system, and that’s been apparent at times in the defensive zone, particularly.
“We think he can have an impact on our team. He matches what we want to be – fast and some tenacity. I won’t lie, it’s taken him a long time to adjust to life here as a Shark and life here in San Jose. Sometimes when you grow up and are only in one organization (Pittsburgh), it takes a little while to let go.
“We’re at the point right now where that has to happen completely, and the details in is game have to be very astute, with everybody, not just Tyler. … We have to know how we want to play in every situation. I think that’s an area Tyler can be better in. But, overall his energy and his passion for the game, his ability to retrieve pucks and get them on net, those are all assets for him. We want him to be a very important piece.”
As for the other lines, Nieto was returned to the second line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. Marty Havlat has apparently been bumped from Sheppard’s line, and it’s unclear whether Havlat, Desjardins, Mike Brown or the recently recalled Bracken Kearns will sit against the Ducks.